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THERE’S MAGIC IN A TOWN


Ibecame familiar with Palo Alto, California while my father’s cousin worked at Stanford University. We were occasionally gifted with tickets to art exhibits and concerts there, and made the trip over the bridge from our island of Alameda. Years later, when I had the decorating business, Palo Alto was a source of much of the material I used in store design.

Allied Arts is a lovely group of artist studios and a small tea room where volunteers take your order for lunch, and even sell you the recipes. Shirley Temple Black waited upon us once years ago. I still use their recipe for carrot soup. Our young neighbors were married there in the patio.

The main office for Sunset Magazine was for many years in Palo Alto. The magazine was started after The Southern Pacific Railroad advertised that you could come out to California and buy a lot for fifty bucks. The magazine advertised the ‘good life’ showing how Californians decorated their homes, planted their gardens, and cooked food equal to that of anywhere in the world. Their building was an ideal typically California style, with hand made tile roofs and floors, and a quiet beautiful decor, showing off hand woven pieces, and pottery. It was surrounded by a rough post and rail fence covered with America climbing roses. When we began landscaping our home, we took note of all of it, and planted 125 America roses along the fence. It was a mass of peachy-red color in the spring. Time Magazine bought the magazine and moved their office to Jack London Square in Oakland. The lovely building in Palo Alto has become something else now. I hope they kept the roses.

Dr. A’s cousin worked for the Magazine for many years, and now our next door neighbor works in the testing kitchen a few days a week. She gets first hand knowledge of what goes into a coming issue, and frequently brings us a sample. This Christmas it was a delicious shortbread cookie.

The town itself was charming, filled with lovely old homes and tiny ‘candy box’ cottages, all owned by mega moguls working in San Francisco. As the years have progressed, businesses have begun to fill in the vacant spaces and it has become another busy place to stay away from. The lovely old homes are still there,surrounded by well-groomed gardens, and the tiny cottages sell upward of a million dollars.

Though Dr. A will always support his beloved University of California at Berkeley, we rarely missed a football game at Stanford, Berkeley’s arch rival. It had a lot to do with the country feel of the campus as opposed to ‘middle-of-the city’ feeling of Cal. It didn’t hurt that he took over the insurance for the University years ago. Today it finds itself in the middle of Silicon Valley.

A number of our friends were Stanford graduates and football fans, and we met each morning of a game in the same place for a “tail-gate” party. There were perhaps 10 or 12 people in our group, one who played in the infamous Stanford band, and whose parents and grandparents before him had graduated from the school. Amazingly, though he donated a great deal of money each year to the school, when it became time for his daughter to enroll, she was denied admission because all she had to offer was a 4.0 scholastic score. Stanford wanted someone who also was active in another activity, such as a sport. Stanford, named for Leland Stanford’s son, Leland Stanford Jr., became one of the most prestigious universities in the world and though in the middle of the city it still maintains its over 8,000 acres of tree-shaded beauty.

Football fans can become a bit over the top, and many people set up shop early in the morning with barbeques fired up, and drinks being buzzed in osterizers. Another friend, who was a big football star at Stanford, brought an enormous bus each game day, filled with his friends and fitted out with all the comforts of home, to be partaken of in the few hours before the game. Thankfully, in those sensible days, a game started at about 1 p.m. Today, most games are televised, and begin in the early evening, making it a very late evening before the game ends.
Stanford parking is in the unpaved woods under ancient oak trees. Of course if it rains, the area becomes a giant mudhole. I remember a story my mother-in-law told of being stuck in the mud after a ball game in their youth. Not fun in the mud and in the dark if it were a night game.

Today, our eleven year old great granddaughter has hopes of someday attending Stanford on a soccer scholarship. The dreams of an eleven year old can’t be dismissed. It always begins somewhere.

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7 comments on “THERE’S MAGIC IN A TOWN

  1. At least your granddaughter has that soccer to complement her scholastic studies. That’s a plus!

    One of the things I most loved about Stanford was the Angel of Grief. I tried to find out online if it has been repaired since being vandalized in 2015, but i couldn’t find anything. Do you know? I’m sure it must have been. Such people, to do a thing like that.

    When I was in seminary, I had a friend who lived in Palo Alto, in one of those little cottage type houses. He wasn’t a student, and had grown up in Palo Alto, so it was his “old home place.” It was beautiful, but after both his parents died, he moved on, and who knows what’s become of the place now.

    There are more and more of those “busy places to say away from,” aren’t there? I love a nice museum, and always enjoyed the hustle and bustle of places like NYC and San Francisco, but there have been radical changes in the past decades: some good, and some not so good. Of course, many of those cities require a lot more cash even to visit these days: let alone live there. I’m glad I had my chance when San Francisco and Berkeley were both pleasant and affordable.

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    • So far this great-granddaughter seems to be an over achiever as far as outdoor sports go. I hope her academics match that enthusiasm.

      I don’t know more about the sculpture. Like you, I hope it has been repaired.

      The cottage your friend lived in is likely still there, but the price has gone up more than he could imagine. When we moved home from Washington nearly 45 years ago, I wanted to live in Palo Alto because of its proximity to Stanford and the cultural activities it offered, but even then, it was too pricey.
      I’m glad I enjoyed these busy places when I liked all the bustle. It’s no longer fun to push and be pushed. Better to just meander through life. I sometimes wonder how much we missed with all the hurry we went through.

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  2. When areas change, I still see the ghosts and phantom buildings as if they’re still present… Sometimes its bittersweet – with progress comes loss, and many times those areas that played a strong role in our lives – are nudged into pockets of times — thankfully we can re-open those doors and remember how it all was — wistful at times, grateful in others, and hopefully never with feelings of remorse… We’d like to shelter those just starting out and remind them to hold memories close and keep them alive, as one day they will return, note the changes, and reminisce – hopefully with sweetness – much like yours!

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    • That is so true Lisa. The only thing that changes is change, and everything does, including ourselves. It’s the nature of people to feel tenderness toward our memories, and I know younger generations will have their own fond memories. We think they are missing our memories, but it isn’t so. You can’t miss what you never had. Or can you? Those ghosts of the past can be pretty intriguing.

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  3. I caught up with your last three posts this morning, Kayti, and thoroughly enjoyed them. (I have been away from my computer for unimportant reasons for too long!) I enjoyed your recounting of the filming of American Graffiti and Star Wars, possibly because I like knowing that people who have done so well in their chosen fields struggled as all of us do. I agreed with your thoughts on aging, especially hearing aides and what getting old is: ” It isn’t the loss of our looks, or the loss of our capabilities. It’s the loss of hope. The loss of interest in new things. The loss of someone or something to care about, or who cares for us.” So well put. And finally, I liked reading your experiences in and around Palo Alto. In my forties, I visited that charming city three different times because my former college roommate lived there for about ten years. You brought it back for me, and I appreciate that.

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    • Thanks so much Janet. I’m glad you enjoyed my scribbles. I have missed your posts, glad you were just relaxing! Sometimes the white page seems too white when I try to write. I’m sure you know the feeling.

      Though Palo Alto has become a much bigger city, it is still a good place to visit. Our own sity of Fremont held about 6,000 people when we moved here 60 years ago. Now it’s home to 225,000 and has lost any charm it may have had. But it became home.

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